Simon's Wok in East Chinatown is a vegetarian Chinese eatery that is worth seeking out. Those thinking that vegetarian food is limited to tofu burgers and salads, are sure to be amazed by this restaurant's astounding array of 111 menu items.
We are intrigued by the items bearing "Vegetarian" roast duck, chicken, shrimp, squid and fish on the menu. Somewhat taken aback at first, we are all delightfully surprised by the artistry of Chef Simon who has mastered the art of fabricating fake meat from tofu and gluten for over a decade. He is against ordering prepackaged goods and prefers to craft everything by hand.
Our appetizer, the Special Homemade Stuffed Bean Curd Roll ($3.50), is paper-thin, crisp and enveloping shredded carrot, mushroom and delicately-spiced bamboo fungus. Our Assorted Wheat Gluten ($4) was also beautifully presented. All representing different "meats," each item was different in texture, taste and complexity. I particularly like the sweet and sour gluten ball, which I'm told is meant to replicate sweet and sour pork.
Shredded Egg Plant with Minced Gluten ($6.95) turns out to be succulent morsels of eggplant and chunks of fried tofu braised in a savoury black bean sauce. It comes sizzling in a ceramic casserole and proves to be the perfect match for a bowl of steamed rice.
Out of curiosity, we try Vegetarian Shrimp, Squid & Fish with Vegetables ($6.75). The "shrimps" shockingly taste like the real thing, bearing sea salt flavour, as do the rubbery bits of artificial squid.
Fried Noodle with Mixed Vegetables & Bean Curd ($6) is surely a dish not to be missed! The vegetables tossed in a rich soy-based sauce over egg noodles are crisp and light, and not the least bit greasy.
Leave everything you think you know about tofu and gluten at the door. Simon's Wok introduces a completely new perspective on vegetarian food that is diverse, creative and endless in variety. This is an experimental foodie adventure not to be missed! Be sure to keep an open mind, as you first timers may have a hard time with the English descriptions on the menu. The staff are wonderfully friendly, but English is very limited at this venue.
Photos by Casey Cunningham